County workers learn to drive ‘steering wheel-less’ graderPublished 3:05pm Thursday, January 14, 2010
By NORMA LERNER
CASSOPOLIS – Who needs a steering wheel?
Jerry Waldo, a technician with the Cass County Road Commission, won’t be using one.
Instead he will operate the big new 12 M Caterpillar grader, known as a Cat, with two joysticks like a Nintendo game.
A first for the road commission, the new Cat can plow snow half the road and shoulder width with its 14-foot-wide blade and 170-horsepower diesel engine. It can also plow with a front blade attached.
The new $200,000 Cat arrived last week from Grand Rapids on a lowboy. The road commission trader in two older graders for the new one, and they actually received more for the old graders than its cost, with $10,000 to boot.
The primary operator of the 32,000-pound machine will be Ray Duffield, and there will be backup drivers. Duffield, Waldo and other workers were trained to operate the grader, somewhat like learning to fly a plane. A computerized simulator was brought in for training. An assistant was at the headquarters for a week and showed the drivers how to work it. It has a feeling of motion, manager Louis Csokasy said. It can go up, down and sideways and has seven gears forward as well as backward. He said all the technicians are learning to operate it. They will start plowing next week.
The grader will be used in the summer time as well to grade gravel roads, Csokasy said.
He said the deepest snow so far this year was in the northwestern part of the county in Silver Creek Township and the Niles area, but the Cat wasn’t ready then. It will be now, he said.